Review: ‘Fire in the North Sky: Epic Tales from Finland’

Review of Kalevala performance led by storyteller Nick Hennessey.

The Oxford Culture Review

The stories from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, are seldom read in England, let alone heard. First published in 1835, the epic is comprised of 22,795 verses of traditional tales from the Karelian region, compiled into one volume by philologist Elias Lönnrot. It became pivotal for Finnish nationalism, rejuvenating interest in the Finnish language at a time when Swedish was the official language of Finland. Most importantly though, it provided a sense of shared cultural history. Lönnrot collected the stories for the Kalevala from singers who performed runic songs, a centuries-old oral tradition of sung poetry. It is these songs that are brought to life in Fire in the North Sky, currently touring the UK. Bringing together storyteller Nick Hennessey, singer Anna-Kaisa Liedes, and instrumentalists Kristiina Ilmonen and Timo Väänänen, the show offers a contemporary take on this tradition, combining the ancient stories with…

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